Input Please: Why Is The Tongue Used In The Upper Register?

Discussion in 'Trumpet Pedagogy' started by Dr.Mark, Mar 6, 2015.

  1. Sethoflagos

    Sethoflagos Utimate User

    Aug 7, 2013
    Lagos, Nigeria
    Just what Dr Mark is saying isn't it?

    In fact I'd drop the 'or's and substitute 'and's. Perhaps these small muscle movements all act in concert.

    Raising the tongue leads to...
    Tensioning/compression of the lips leads to...
    Increased embouchure stiffness AND reduction of the aperture AND reduction in airflow AND increase in oral cavity pressure ALL leading to...
    A new system equilibrium frequency at the next partial up

    And vice versa

    Lowering the tongue leads to...
    Relaxation/decompression of the lips leads to...
    Reduced embouchure stiffness AND increase of the aperture AND increase in airflow AND reduction in oral cavity pressure ALL leading to...
    A new system equilibrium frequency at the next partial down.

    It seems from what some of top players are saying that tongue level is not vital for some but at least helpful for most in some circumstances. And this variation shouldn't be surprising: someone earlier on said something about skinning cats. I'd also be very surprised if oral cavity resonance didn't play some part too for some players at least. Raising the tongue will tend to reduce communication with the rest of the respiratory tract and encourage at least some higher resonant frequency vibrations which could conceivably help the process (if domesticated). Solar Bell posted something recently about Wynton claiming to use oral cavity resonance to assist his phenomenal tonguing speeds. Sounds quite reasonable.

    In short, it's probably futile to search for one single parameter to control pitch. It's a property of a complete functioning system. Like speed and noise are properties of VB's zen motorcycle. Remove the spark plugs and the speed and noise stop. That doesn't mean that the speed and noise are contained within the spark plugs.
  2. Dr.Mark

    Dr.Mark Mezzo Forte User

    Apr 5, 2011
    Hi VB,
    Hummmmm? Let's use speech for a moment and look at what happens normally:
    When a person says "A" and then says "E", the tongue go from fairly flat in the mouth for "A" to the back of the tongue going forward and up little for "E". The tongue is attached to the mandible.
    In fact, here's a little experiment for everyone to try!:
    1. Say a long "A" and notice what your mouth does. Chances are, the mouth opened a little.
    2. Now say "E" and notice what does the mouth does? Chances are the mouth closed a little more than when saying "A".
    Can a person learn to not move the chin and shape the tongue into vowels and say them? Of course, they are called ventriloquists. But remember what the mouth did when the sound went from "A" to "E". It appears that when the tongue is shaped to make the "E" sound tends to bring up the jaw which puts the lips closer together.
    Granted, this is using speech and speech isn't trumpet but we do shape the tongue into "vowels" when we play, right?
    Also, thanks to all that participated in the little experiment with speech & vowel formation:
    Send you participation invoices for prompt payment to:
    1313 Mockingbird Lane
    Transylvainia 65000
  3. dangeorges

    dangeorges Pianissimo User

    Oct 20, 2010

    I agree here...I think of moving between harmonic series by saying "too-ee" (See Charlie Porter example here: Charlie sees moving the tongue upwards for higher notes a given - something that is expected (see the spots between 2:15-2:20 and again between 2:50-3:10)
  4. Dr.Mark

    Dr.Mark Mezzo Forte User

    Apr 5, 2011
    That's what I do too. Too-EE. Moving the tongue upwards is something that's expected for higher notes makes sense to me. It seems to come naturally in speech and it would appear that in doing so, the lips are put together a little tighter. This might help connect some of what a person is "feeling" (a great teaching tool) with what is actually going on (the science). After reading too much stuff on how the human mandible works, how the mouth works, tongue thrust, infant feeding behaviors, how the tongue works, how the tongue works in conjunction with the mandible, nerves of the face, how speech is formed (vowels), Bernoulli principle, Helmholtz resonance, Reynolds Number, the literature sure makes for a compelling case that when a person (consciously or unconsciously) shapes their tongue as if to say a vowel, the mandible is naturally part of the process. What other reason can exist for a trumpet player to form their tongues to make different vowels shapes if it's not to assist in playing higher and lower?
    According to Arban's 1982 pg. 37,(down in the small print) Claude Gordon wrote "For a long time it was thought that trilling was accomplished by movement of the lips. It is now known that the trill is accomplished by movements of the tongue" A Systematic Approach to Daily Practice (04702) by Claude Gordon
  5. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

    Jun 18, 2006
    I am with Sethoflagos here.

    Let's think about a couple of things:
    don't players that use excess pressure "clamp" the aperature so it can't change size? They still get high notes. Maybe the aperature is NOT the factor?
    The lips flap open and close and act like a switch letting puffs of air through. Lower notes cause the lips to flap more slowly. Does the aperature have to open up for this?
    When we "pucker" we increase the density of the lips through tissue compression. We all know that increasing mass LOWERS the resonant frequency, but in the case of the trumpet, the pitch goes UP, so it isn't primarily compression working here.

    I think that if we analyse the impedance of the mouthpiece cup, throat and backbore we will discover some things that help explain how the WHOLE system works - and perhaps the equilibrium that I am talking about.

    The energy in a trumpet keeps the standing wave going. We have to add energy to increase the pitch. If we look at the impedance curve of a complete trumpet with mouthpiece, we see what we have to balance as well as realizing that the impedance drops dramatically in the upper register. The horn helps us ever less going up if constant volume is our goal.

    I think that we confuse buzz analogies with the monostable vibration/resonance of the horn. Buzzing higher does not necessarily result in a higher played pitch on the trumpet. When we buzz into a mouthpiece, that frequency is so far below the resonance of that cup/bore/throat volume, that we can call it an unloaded state. When the horn is attached, we blow smack into the active band of the resonant structure.

    Basically I think that we need to ask how it is even possible to play lead for a 4 hour gig. If the difference was only a small easy technique, many more would be able to, if it was simply an athletic feat, many of the players that I know would collapse. There is a holistic approach and if we get sidetracked, we never will reach our goal. I am convinced that the key is our brain, not our brawn. The correct sound concept, the brain controlling the fine motor activity of the face, superior body use and above all being RELAXED (not wasting the energy that we have through excess compression anywhere) result in better playing.

    I think that the secret is reducing compression to not clamp the chops down, reducing compression to get a bigger breath with less body tension. That with the correct motor control move us forwards and upwards in my often not so humble opinion.
  6. Dr.Mark

    Dr.Mark Mezzo Forte User

    Apr 5, 2011
    Hi all,
    I have to lean toward sethoflagos and rowuk. Pitch manipulation is probably not based on one single factor.
    You have to admit though, it was an interesting run.
    "Lifting the tongue for some brass players seems to effect the pitch"
    There's a great dissertation topic for the taking!
  7. Ed Lee

    Ed Lee Utimate User

    Aug 16, 2009
    Jackson NC
    just doesn't work that well when you've a full upper denture.
  8. Gxman

    Gxman Piano User

    Jan 21, 2010
    After more trial and trying to understand how the tongue works...

    My end conclusion comes down to this:

    There are 3 bits that must work together.

    1: Lungs
    2: Tongue
    3: Embouchure

    If we think about Embouchure to produce higher/lower notes... it is too late by that stage. Why? Well, after the air is gone past the lips, that is finished as the lips are the last stage before sound will be produced. It also at least mentally, means, your brain focuses on the manipulation of the lips rather than other factors. This can lead to over-tightening and/or too much movement in the lips.

    Watching the best trumpet players, they play low-high and no notice of lip movement is visible (or at least extremely minimal).

    So instead of thinking about the embouchure, by thinking about the tongue directing the air, even though the bi-product is that the lips will do what they need... the fact you are not focusing on the lips means you have the best chance of playing as relaxed as possible as the lips will move only as much as needed in conjunction with the movement of the tongue to produce the note you are trying to play. Thus minimal movement will be the result and less likely to be over-using the lips.

    It also however means that you are controlling the direction of air via the tongue which is 1 step before the lips. So once the air gets to the lips, it is doing what it needs rather than being all too late as once it hits the lips, that is the end of it.

    So given the Air supply/support is good (step one),
    Control the notes via tongue (step 2, air gets here before it gets to lips)
    Embouchure (step 3) will only do as little as needed to simply release the air that has been controlled for the note desired by step 2.

    So in essence, the note is being formed inside the mouth via the control of the tongue and the lips (embouchure) is simply releasing the note already formed prior to the lip. So you are more prepared in the end. No sense trying to control/create the note with the lip as by that stage, you are making the sound with whatever note you got as air is already coming through.

    Hope that makes sense.
  9. stumac

    stumac Fortissimo User

    Oct 19, 2008
    Flinders Vic Australia
    Gxman, the sound is made by the creation of the standing wave in the instrument, read Rowuk's posts on this, the air only provides the energy to sustain it, for every note and volume there is a minimum air pressure required to sustain it, using the tongue to raise the pitch to the next higher partial, there must be the pressure required for that partial present.

    Have you noticed that as you go higher it is harder to keep the volume constant?

    Regards, Stuart.
  10. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

    Jun 18, 2006
    Hmmmm, it is tough not to get passionate. If the tongue arch is critical, double tongueing in the upper register should result in a trill........... ;-)

    The bottom line for me is to follow whatever you dream up. If it works and you can advance, fine. Success is measured in months and years.

    I believe that the tongue is an integral part of the mouth and cannot be overlooked. It is for sure part of our playing and there are those that concentrate on its use. Even Arban advocated Toooh, Taaah and Teeeh in relation to register. Seeing as he taught at conservatory level, what did the students bring with them for other skills?

    So to answer the original question: Why is the tongue used in the upper register? Because it is in our mouth! Additionally, the question implies that the tongue is used ESPECIALLY for the upper register. This is not universally true and in a court of law would be dismissed as "leading" the witness. This does not mean that there is no truth in the tongues activity, the observation is simply flawed when the rest of the parameters are ignored/unknown. We simply cannot state that x amount of arch results in x amount of pitch change.

    It would be advantageous for those trying to intellectualize the process to check out the research pages at the Institut Wiener Klangstil website. They are the geeks that even take pictures of the embouchure while playing-from inside the mouthpiece. The videos of the flapping lips destroy the aperature beliefs and show the dangers of just a "little" knowledge.

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